Litchfield will be able to Cast Votes on the 10th of March

February 27, 2015
 

by Len Lathrop

Have you thought about what Litchfield School District Clerk Jason Guerrette tried to do over the last two months? Maybe it is over.  He signed the ballot and all might be well in Litchfield.  But was the question ever answered:  Is the default budget correct and who decides?  The school board who gets their numbers from the business manager?

Judge David Garfunkel, in Hillsborough County Superior Court South, made the matter very simple last Wednesday when he issued a with a petition for a writ of mandamus to sign or resign, and that set up the emergency hearing on Thursday.

Guerrette continues to state that all he was asking for was an explanation of the calculations that were used by the school district for the default budget; he explained via many phone conversations that he felt he was defending his oath of office and doing the job to the best of his abilities.

The Litchfield School District Attorney Gordon Graham defined the school district clerk’s role as “ministerial duty” to “prepare and sign the official ballot” whether he felt it was right or wrong.  Judge Garfunkel agreed.

The ballot was signed.  The 24th was the last day for absentee ballots to be sent.  The school district had three and a half working days to do that, while they were not mailed together with the Town of Litchfield ballots.  Meanwhile, back to the question.  On March 10 only the voters can decide; if you can call it a decision.  The operating budget proposed is $21,031,613 while the default is $21,074,749.  If a voter says “no,” then the school district gets more revenue than is being budgeted for.  If the voters agree and affirm the warrant article, are they saying everything is grand with the budget or are they just looking to save a few dollars?  Also, why is the operating budget not recommended by the school board, which makes the decision at the polls even harder?

One last question to think about, the clerk is an elected official so if he had to pay court costs would the school district be required to pay?  So many questions and so little time.  The one fact that continues to shine is that no one other than the calculators of the default budget review it.  That is one thing that needs to be fixed.  It is a state-level issue.  Local voters might be able to offer a resolution at next year’s elections to force the default to be voted on by the budget committee, but then again until it is an RSA (Revised Statutes Annotated), so most elected officials would say it was only advisory.